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posted: 8/16/2014 5:45 AM

Matching? A decorating idea that died of boredom

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  • Make mine matchless: A mix of different woods and cabinet styles adds eye appeal to an elegant kitchen.

    Make mine matchless: A mix of different woods and cabinet styles adds eye appeal to an elegant kitchen.
    Courtesy of Wood-Mode


Q. When we remodel our kitchen, is it OK to mix cabinet woods and colors? I want white- or cream-painted cabinets and an eat-on island. Can I choose a different wood or color for it? How about the countertops? Should they match, too?

A. Matching in interior design -- and in apparel fashion -- is an old and tired idea that went out years ago. It simply is dieing of boredom, proving yet again that it is possible to have too much of a thing, however good that thing may be.

Better to stimulate the eye with a variety of visual experiences, as designer John F. Troxell Jr. does in the kitchen we show here. Director of design at Wood-Mode (, a top manufacturer of custom cabinetry, John says there are no more "suits" of furniture in decorating today.

The concept of matching "suits" came in with the upper-class fad for French furniture in the late 19th century and quickly caught on with mass producers, who convinced middle-class home decorators that matching was the way to go in furniture, as well as china and silver, pocketbooks and shoes.

Before then, John says, people would have lived with an accumulation of heirlooms and new pieces in a merry mix of styles, woods and colors, "a collection of a lifetime, a heritage of travel, of personal interests ... "

We've gone back to living with such a "merry mix" today. In this kitchen, for example, John deliberately mixes hardwood and painted cabinets. The island is walnut -- "almost a furniture piece" -- surrounded by painted cabinets. Look closely, and you'll see that he's repeated the walnut inside the glass-fronted cabinets, a subtle designer touch that ups the ante on elegance and adds "drama," John says.

More mixology: he uses different hardware on the cabinets and combines different styles of cabinet doors: The island cabinets have raised center panels; the wall cabinets, flat panels.

And, yes, it's OK to mix countertops, too. The counters you see here are made of engineered quartz (Caesarstone), but as John points out, he also installed one countertop that's made of mahogany (just outside the picture).

Matchless design? In every sense of the word!

Q. We have to make over our tiny guest room for my niece, who's going to be living with us for the next year while she finishes college. It was the maid's room -- we have an old Victorian -- so there's a private bath. But that and a small window are its only good features. How can we decorate to make the room more appealing to a 20-year-old?

A. Find out her favorite colors and paint them in wide horizontal stripes around the room. Automatically, the space will look larger -- and livelier.

Carpet the floor wall to wall in a darkish compatible color. Dress the window in something unfussy, say, a Roman shade or plantation blinds. Stand a bookcase behind her bed as a useful headboard. Provide Wi-Fi and ample wiring for all her devices. Then squeeze in as many of the following as space permits:

1. Desk;

2. Good reading lamp(s);

3. Sprawl-able chair.

Coolest additives: a mini fridge and microwave.

© 2014,

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